God Does Play Dice
The Autobiography of a Holocaust Survivor
By Klara Samuels
350 p. illus.
PHILADELPHIA (December 1998) -- BainBridgeBooks, an imprint of Trans-Atlantic Publications of Philadelphia, announces the upcoming release of God Does Play Dice by Klara Samuels (ISBN: 1-891696-07-6), due out March 1999. This autobiography and account of the Holocaust is Samuels’ first published work.
Born in Poland’s prosperous Jewish community in 1927, as a teenager Klara Samuels (nee Salamon) saw Nazi persecution of Jews firsthand in both the Warsaw Ghetto and at Bergen-Belsen, the same concentration camp that held Anne Frank. This is the story of how Klara beat the odds and not only survived the Holocaust, but later established a normal life as a now-retired New Jersey high school physics teacher. This transformation, writes the author, came only through hard work and sheer luck -- thus the title of the book.
"On an individual basis I can argue that God gave me a fair share of luck: a good brain, six years of horror balanced by over 50 years of happiness and prosperity, good health and reasonable longevity," Samuels writes. "But on the vast scale of events I am still bewildered and horrified by the cruel and senseless deaths during our own Holocaust and those of other victimized people."
Klara and her family spent the war years in hiding and out. After the initial bombing of Warsaw by the Nazis, the family moved east behind Russian lines, only to be stuck there for over a year after her father was arrested and imprisoned by the Soviets for trying to blaze an escape route to Lithuania and freedom. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Salamons returned to Warsaw and its ghetto, only to find it growing ever smaller as Auschwitz and Treblinka began to claim their horrible tolls. Finally taken in by a sympathetic Polish family outside the city, Klara and her family try to exploit a diplomatic loophole to get to Switzerland, but instead wind up in Bergen-Belsen for 22 months, an experience Klara’s mother does not survive. Klara and her father narrowly escaped death as well:
"In the fall, the German embassy (in Switzerland) was informed that all the papers of our group were authentic. The embassy was requested to inform the camp authorities that this group was to be protected. The orders arrived in Bergen-Belsen just before the removal of the third section of the group, and the action was stopped. It was too late for the people whose last names started with the letters A through L ... Those people were transferred to Auschwitz and went straight to the gas chamber."
After the war, Klara and her father left Europe behind and settled in what was to become Israel. Klara then moved to New York City where in spite of all that happened she began on the road toward what many would consider a normal American life: marriage, children, work and ultimately retirement. The book concludes with the emotional account of Klara’s first visit to Poland in 50 years and historical background which explains why such virulent anti-Semitism took hold there in the first place.
"To live a normal life, prosper and bring up a family is in itself a triumph for each survivor, a victory over the evil and death that Hitler brought to the world," Samuels writes. "Stories of individual survivors range from those devoting their lives to keeping the Holocaust’s memory alive before the world to those who licked their wounds in the anonymity of withdrawal. Most of us, including myself, fall somewhere in the middle of this range."
God Does Play Dice is an important and somewhat unexpected look at the Holocaust from a survivor in every sense of the word. The book brings one of history’s most important and disturbing events to a very personal level.
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